Increased Firearms Sales the New Normal?

Firearm sales numbers have skyrocketed since early 2020. A lot goes into those figures, like the public unease during the COVID 19 lockdowns, the violent protests later that year, and the continually rising crime rate, combined with defunding of law enforcement agencies and elimination of cash bail. Those factors, and likely others, have prompted an estimated eight million Americans to purchase their first firearm. Many of those folks, as they learn more about firearms and the self-defense world, are deciding to accept responsibility for their safety beyond what the police can offer. Even more telling, a large portion of those new gun owners are women and minorities, two populations not historically linked to firearms ownership.

Gun Store employee
Millions of people bought guns for the first time between 2020 and 2022. (

Longtime gun owners are also stepping up to start carrying their firearms and reaching out for training. Concealed carry permits are also rising, though the numbers are probably not an accurate indicator of the number of people carrying their firearms since 25 states now have Constitutional Carry. More people carrying means even more gun sales. So, sales drive numbers of carriers, and more carriers drive more sales. Sounds like a win-win.

FBI NICS Statistics

The newly released FBI National Instant Background Check System (NICS) numbers show that the agency performed nearly 31.6 million background checks in 2022. That number ranks third all-time behind 2020’s nearly 39.7 million and 2021’s nearly 38.9 million checks. The FBI has recorded statistics going back to November 30, 1998.

Those background checks translate into an estimated 16.4 million new firearms sold. Security checks, including those for concealed carry permits, account for the balance. The FBI notes that, “based on varying state laws and purchase scenarios, a one-to-one correlation cannot be made between a firearm background check and a firearm sale.”

Once again, though, the number of Constitutional Carry states depresses the number of background checks that would otherwise be performed for those permits. So, it’s probable that the new numbers are greater than they appear in relation to previous years.

FBI NICS Statistics chart

The New Normal

Mark Oliva, spokesman for the National Shooting Sports Foundation (NSSF) says that NICS checks and firearms sales growth is the “new normal,” with trends suggesting the high numbers will continue.

“When a new ceiling is reached on background checks for retail gun sales,” Oliva said, “the market settles to a ‘new normal.’ That new normal typically exceeds what the trend line of what was seen before the spike. In this case, there were nearly 13.2 million before the 2020 and 2021 spike. The 16.4 million figure shows that the industry continues to meet a signal from today’s gun buyer.” Oliva continued, saying, “There continues to be a strong desire from law abiding Americans to purchase the firearms of their choice.”

NSSF Spokesman Mark Oliva
The NSSF’s Mark Oliva believes increased sales are the “new normal. (NSSF photo)

Bucking the Narrative

Gun control groups, fueled by the friendly media, insist that Americans are buying fewer guns and favor more gun restrictions. They claim that rising gun sales represent people who are stockpiling more guns, concentrating those firearms in the hands of fewer people overall. They do their best to paint those folks as “extremists.” But that narrative doesn’t hold up to the style of guns being sold, in the numbers being sold, combined with rising numbers of carry permits.

The claims of Americans wanting stronger gun restrictions come from a series of surveys that claim to poll current gun owners. But surveys are notoriously easy to manipulate to achieve the desired results. And the methodology of these surveys is almost always suspect, from the way questions about background checks are worded to the small geographic area where the surveys are conducted. Nor does it help that the surveys are conducted by historically anti-gun organizations, further invalidating their trustworthiness. The latest survey making those claims came from NPR, which has never been gun friendly, or even gun neutral.

Man shopping at gun store
Americans are embracing their Second Amendment rights more than ever, despite the gun control narrative. (

Americans seem to be turning away from the message of gun control as they educate themselves on the realities of firearms ownership and the advantages of being responsible for their own safety. The further we go, the more obvious it becomes that, no matter how much they claim to promote greater safety, gun control groups are really promoting more top-down control, reduced individual freedom, and less safety, not greater, since their policies will not affect criminals at all.

An Encouraging Trend

The sales and background check numbers are encouraging. They show that Americans are becoming more aware of their basic right to self-defense and deciding to exercise it. Firearms training is also a booming industry, thus confirming that new gun owners are becoming more involved.

The media is battling hard to reverse the trend, with a recent Slate article calling the Second Amendment a “curse” and excoriating the Supreme Court for the landmark Bruen Decision. The article cites all the flawed gun control talking points we hear every day.

The media also trumpets whatever the gun control groups give them, even if it makes no sense. Arch gun controller Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety just released their end-of-year report cards on state gun control laws. It ranks California’s laws as being strongest in the nation, thus earning the Golden State the number one spot in their rankings.

Woman buying a gun
Women are buying more guns than ever before. (George Frey/Getty Images)

The only problem is that California still has more gun deaths per 100,000 people than states with less restrictive gun laws. So, it’s obvious that Everytown’s grade system doesn’t look at safety, but rather levels of government restrictions. Kind of ironic, given the group’s name. But it isn’t surprising. If we’ve said it once, we’ve said it thousands of times: the operative word in “gun control” is “control.”

Despite the negative publicity, and what groups like Everytown, Moms Demand Action, Brady, Giffords, and all the others claim, the Second Amendment protects everyone’s rights. If someone chooses not to exercise those rights, that’s fine. That is also their right. But that does not give them the right to restrict other people’s rights, no matter how much they believe they know better.

So, let’s welcome the members to our firearms community. If their experience is positive, they will stay and bring in other folks. We, ourselves, are the best defense against gun control propaganda. We can show people that “gun safety” movements aren’t about safety at all. This is a trend worth supporting.

William "Bucky" Lawson is a self-described "typical Appalachian-American gun enthusiast". He is a military historian specializing in World War II and has written a few things, as he says, "here and there". A featured contributor for Strategy & Tactics, he likes dogs, range time, and a good cigar - preferably with an Old Fashioned that has an extra orange slice.

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